The researchers looked at 1,653 men aged 49 to 65 from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, and recorded how many of them had a heart attack or stroke. They then used the findings to calculate as to how many people would need to have been given statins to prevent the cardiovascular events, and how the application of current UK, European and US guidelines would have affected the figures. They also studied the potentially serious disease episodes that could have been prevented through the treatment with statins.
They calculated that over the past 10 years there were 212 heart attacks or stroke among the men. They explained that as the current UK government's National Service Framework recommendations target those at highest risk, they said that this meant that just 14% of the group to be treated. And this they explained meant that it only cuts the rate of heart attack or stroke in the overall population by 9%.
Professor Paul Durrington, who leads the researchers said that statin treatment would hardly make any difference to the overall rate of cardiovascular disease unless it is targeted at all those at average risk like most middle-aged men and most older women. The professor and his team also felt that more effective national policies on nutrition to help reduce reliance on statins should also be considered. They explained this while highlighting a lack of resolve in tackling Britain's unhealthy diet, which has they felt led to one in three of Europe's obese children being British.
Roger Boyle, the government's National Director for Coronary Heart Disease stated that the prescription of statin has been rising by almost 30% every year in the NHS and they estimate that this is responsible for saving up to 9,000 lives a year. He explained, "Statin prescribing is one key weapon in the NHS's armoury when in comes to managing cardiovascular risk". At the same time he cautioned that this needs to go in hand with a huge programme of educating people to change their unhealthy lifestyle and tackle the risk factors of heart disease, which they stated still remains a national priority.
Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said that this paper suggests they must either treat many more people who are conventionally considered to be at relatively low risk of a heart attack, or they must be much more aggressive in their attempts to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.